Hello, and welcome! I’m thrilled to be chatting, once again, with the amazing Nicholas Pearson, author of Crystal Basics – Crystal healing for the heart. He is also the author of so many other amazing Works. Nicholas, thank you so much for being here today to help as answer the question – are your crystals ethical?
Nicholas Pearson: It is my delight, my privilege, my pleasure. These are always my favorite conversations that I get to do. Thank you for having me back!
Ashley: Well, the reason we’re chatting today, is that you and I were talking on Instagram the other day about ethically sourced minerals. This is something that I think has become of great importance in the collective mineral Community. We want to make sure that we’re buying and sourcing gems ethically. Both as consumers, people who purchase crystals, as well as business owners who are selling crystals. So we were talking about a number of things, right? We discussed what actually makes something ethical and about the use of ethics as a kind of buzzword. So let’s have a conversation about this for the podcast and really just dig into it.
So, first and foremost, I want to ask you, for those who may not know, why it would be important for us to try and source our minerals ethically.
Nicholas: I think, as people in the conscious living sphere, we care about the impact. There’s an expression, “if it isn’t grown, it’s mined.” So everything has some relationship to a raw material that came from Mother Earth, whether we sewed those seeds ourselves or leveled the forest to get something that is grown or whether we are digging stuff out of the earth. Anywhere I look in my room around me, not just the rocks on every surface but the services themselves probably have some relationship to the mineral kingdom. Whether it’s the plastic drawers for the tumbled rocks or even the fibers in the carpet beneath me are petrochemicals.
We can’t have an existence, at least at this stage in our development on Earth, that Mining and extraction don’t impact.
And as conscious consumers, My Hope for myself is that the decisions I make will impact the Earth as conscientiously and as least devastatingly as possible. I care about where Rocks come from, not just because I care about rocks, but because I care about the people who get them out of the Earth, the people who do the work, people who bring them to market. It’s such a complex conversation. There’s no one way to define or identify an ethically sourced Rock. And we just have to take the information we’ve got and make the best decision available for us.
Ashley: So, before we get into what actually does define an ethically sourced mineral, I want to kind of echo what you were just saying about how this goes so much deeper than just minerals. It really is about our existence in the world of modern humans, especially Western modern humans. This is something that we all have to the best of our ability, be conscious of our decisions about.
If you think about all the minerals that it takes to create the devices that were all communicating on, watching this on, listening on, all of these things are, like you said, extracted from the Earth. Every little bit of it. It makes me think of Alan Watts, who has this whole talk on how us humans live in our ticky tacky houses, with our ticky tacky things. And as much as sometimes we feel so separate from nature, from Mother Earth, and from the world, we are a part of it. And everything we do is interconnected and interwoven.
Why is it that crystals, in particular, have this bad reputation for being particularly harmful in some circles?
Nicholas: Well, I think a really prime example is the idea of conflict gemstones and other conflict materials. This is a really horrific practice. It is something that is ongoing, and there is vast corruption. For anyone who might not be aware of what the term conflict stone or constant gem means, these are materials bought and sold in areas that have a lot of human conflict, often at the expense of human lives or through the endangerment of human lives.
Minors in places who do the digging for these diamonds risk life and limb in quite a literal sense over misplacing a stone, let alone taking one with him intentionally. So you’ve got these sorts of horrific human practices, social practices that are then, in turn, fueling other things. For example, the sale of those gems might be encouraging the buying of firearms, ammunitions, and other agents of war.
The conventional jewelry trade has begun to establish guidelines for buying certified conflict-free gemstones, which is certainly not every rock out there.
The real truth behind this example, in particular, that I think is going to hold true for the rest of the rocks and minerals that we’ll talk about, is… you genuinely just can’t know the entire evidence of a stone in most cases. So, maybe we’ve heard about these conflict diamonds, maybe we’ve heard about the horrible things happening with the generals in Mozambique, or in Myanmar with the Jade mines, or all these other places where the indigenous people are subject to some pretty brutal atrocities in the name of gems, and we start to think about, well, I wonder what the rest of the crystal healing mark is like.
A few years ago, there was this really poignant piece that came out for like conventional media outlets about the dark side of the crystal healing industry. It really focused on some of the conditions of miners in Madagascar. The example they kept coming to time and time again was rose quartz, because that was what the journalists uncovered and followed the most. And it’s pretty grim, so this is not to sugarcoat that, but we have to remember that these are singular examples; the rock and mineral industry has been going on since the beginning of commerce.
Since the beginning of trade, we have evidence of gemstones being traded across great distances for huge expenses.
So there’s nothing here that is new, but there’s also nothing here that we should ignore just because it’s old. You may think the growing popularity in an ethical source stone idea is because enough people have realized other sectors of the market matter. And if we want to walk our talk and be these highly evolved spiritual people, we’ve got to look at our own practice, which is sometimes hard.
You look at a beautiful object, and I pick up this beautiful barite from Morocco, and I don’t really know how it got to me in this particular instance. I don’t know who mined it at what time of year under what conditions, how much they were paid, etc. But it’s a lovely object that I have in my possession. It is a spiritual tool that I use for the betterment of myself and my clients, and my students. I would like to think that all of that is fine on its own. But there are still other ripples being cast by these stones. It’s time at least to have uncomfortable conversations about what those ripples look like, even if we don’t have all the answers. I think it’s really good to open the door.
Ashley: Yeah. I would definitely agree with that, and I think one thing that you have kind of brought up a little bit that I want to harken back to is this idea that perhaps the reason this has become so important to so many of us is because it almost feels in opposition to the beliefs that many of us hold spiritually.
If we believe in compassion, if we believe in non-harm, if we believe in stewarding the earth and in Oneness, and connection, and taking care of one another as part of this human Collective, then It seems that some of these atrocities obviously are in direct opposition to that.
It is a painful question to examine. How can these two things coexist and fit together as part of the sphere of Human Experience, right? Because you don’t have that beautiful barite without that. I think it’s important to realize that ultimately whenever we’re talking about a case of extraction, there is a cost somewhere.
So let’s dig into what makes a mineral ethical because I’m going to tell you, I have a bit of a pet peeve right now with this term, ethical. Well it’s not with the term, it’s with the way that the term is being used. Because I cannot tell you how many crystal shops pop up on my feed, and I go to their page, and the first thing it says is “a hundred percent ethically sourced minerals.” It is so misleading. It is so inaccurate, especially when I frequently see some of the stuff on those pages, and I know where it’s from, and I know there’s no way.
What, in your eyes, classifies a mineral as ethical? What should we strive for?
Nicholas: So let’s start with an example of something we can guarantee is entirely ethically sourced, something that I know I have total agency over. I go to a place in nature. I find a stone, and it is a place where I am legally and morally allowed to pick up the stone. There, I pick it up myself, and I haven’t left much of a carbon footprint. I haven’t disrupted too much of the environment with my presence there. Although I’ve stepped on blades of grass, I have broken twigs, there are still ripples. I bring that stone home, I clean it lovingly, and I put it in my toolbox. That stone is probably as close to 100% ethically sourced as anything can be. And everything else has a bigger footprint than that.
I was listening once to an interview that Sabrina Scott, the author of a book called “Which body did?”, was talking about her vegetarianism. The interviewer made the assumption that maybe that had something to do with ethics or morals, however it was actually entirely a dietary need for her. And she said, and I’ll paraphrase this quote, that there is nothing without violence. Even being a vegetarian, even consuming only plants, means organisms sacrifice their lives and their well-being to feed us.
So, with any stone we pick up, there is some level of violence, which isn’t necessarily the word we want to use because it would require us to anthropomorphize things that are not sentient in the same way that we are. Their Spirits are different. Their life cycles are different. But basically we have to disrupt something to end up with that tool.
We have to look at what technology and practices were used to get our stones out of the Earth.
Were we cautious and conscientious about the environment and the footprint we’re leaving there? What about the conditions of the human beings operating said equipment? You can have low invasive techniques like just gentle hand Mining and digging by hand. You don’t have a huge carbon footprint that way, but, are those workers in safe and sound conditions? Are they dying of cave-ins? Being pinned under heavy rocks? Are they coming home exhausted and unable to do anything else with their lives? Their emotional well-being is certainly a part of this, how much as a stone traveled to get to you.
There is also an ethics issue with fossil fuels, as they’re required to ship rocks around the world, which is done every year to go from the point of origin to the point of lapidary work to the point of distribution at trade shows, until they finally make their way into retail stores.
In your hands, you get something that’s maybe mined somewhere in North America, sent to South Africa or India or Indonesia for lapidary work, then bought and sold by the barrel full in China and then brought back into North America to trade shows like Tucson or Denver, when we could have just brought it there in the first place ourselves. Still, the value of human labor is different in a white, Western Civilization than in other parts of the world.
It’s hard to have this conversation about ethics without also looking at the role of white supremacy and other kinds of white-focus and white-centered things that give us this capitalist ability to go out and buy the best rock for the best price.
I’m not condemning anyone for existing in a capitalist Society and surviving and thriving here in a capitalist society. Still, we have to remember that those things enact a form of violence. There’s just no way around it.
Is the stone being bought, sold, distributed, traded in a way that is contributing to magnifying or glorifying human conflict? Are children being forced to mine things like the mica in our jewelry? There’s the list that just goes on and on, but what is the environment? What is the role of the workers? How big is the carbon footprint? And at the end of the day, what does the marketing look like? Because there is an ethics to the marketing, in the naming of stones, that intentionally obfuscates a lot of these steps. So they’re all factors.
There’s no single checklist that says the stone was ethically sourced, unless you know the entire story.
Ashley: And in all honesty Ninety-nine point nine, nine percent of the time we don’t. Because just like everything through capitalism, the process is done on such a large scale now that the mineral Market is huge and as you said, you might have a crystal that could have been mined 50 miles from where you live, but it traveled 10,000 miles to get to you. Quite literally this happens.
One of the other things we are discussing on Instagram is not just looking at these points that you mentioned, so the environmental impact and ethics there. But also, the workers’ conditions – are they safe? Are they healthy? Was child labor used? All of these things, right? Every single step of the way, those questions have to be answered. Sometimes we have some of those answers and not others, and it is a difficult conversation to have, but I think it also makes us conscious of our consumption. At least I can say that for myself.
I used to have a lot more consumerist tendencies of just buying what I wanted whenever I wanted in a White Centric Western capitalist way. I think that having these questions to reflect on and understand that, like you said, at every part of this process there is a cost, and in some way, there is going to be violence.
Where do we go from here? How do we, as conscious consumers or conscious business owners, healers, teachers, or spiritual practitioners make the best, most sound decisions that we can when it comes to our role in this? And how important is this really?
Nicholas: I think I want to work backward here because there’s a really good talking point. I think about our role and how big it plays in the global market of this. Crystals are huge. It’s a multibillion-dollar industry. Rocks and minerals have been a thing for a long time. They’re becoming more investible, especially in high-end specimens. And so that’s something that we will only ever see an increase, but the percentage of all Mining and extraction that this represents is teeny tiny. It is infinitesimally small. And as a general rule of thumb, most of the industrial mining done for the rocks and minerals that end up on the crystal healing Market is done in a fairly small yield standard.
Let’s look at the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s a great example, where all this beautiful malachite, Shadow kite, and many others are coming from the Cobaltoan Calcites and Cobaltoan dolomites. A lot of this stuff is found in the way of what industrial mining is really trying to do; get at things like Cobalt and nickel and valuable ore minerals that can be refined to extract really valuable metals to produce the devices that you and I are communicating with, or that all of our listeners are streaming and watching and tuning in on.
I think we have to take a step back and go, okay, this device obviously didn’t grow on a tree. So if it wasn’t grown, it was mined.
All the components in it are inorganic in nature. They were mined, so what kind of impact did this device have? And honestly, I can say, without a doubt, my iPhone produces more violence against the Earth and humankind than just about any Rock in my collection. That doesn’t necessarily help me sleep at night because I am still on the cell phone, but when I stop and go, where is the greatest harm done? It’s not my rose quartz. It Isn’t that beautiful piece of Barrett I had. It isn’t even my really precious gems like Emerald; it’s in my devices.
So, if those miners are given the opportunity to dig all that beautiful malachite out of the way to go in for the raw metals and things that are much more important, and then we have a pile of beautiful stones, why not Sell those? Why not bring them to the lapidary trade? Why not bring them to the market where these miners, who, quite honestly, do not get paid their worth, get the Cobalt orders and the tantalum, and the other great stuff.
I would love to live in a world where miners are in safe conditions and getting paid fairly, but the reality is, they’re not.
If they can supplement that with the cutting, selling, polishing, distributing of Malachite, and other things that are right there, I want them to do that. I want to support that industry. I want to hope that part of it, that arm of it, is doing better. And, there aren’t a lot of people I buy malachite from, especially at the wholesale level.
I buy from people who I know what kind of relationship they have with the environment.
My favorite malachite vendor, his family is from the Congo, he’s from the Congo. When I buy rocks from him, he can tell me exactly where they came from, the name of the mine, even if the shaft has a name or at least the relationship it’s got to the geography of the area. He has that literal familial kinship with the people doing that labor. They’re getting paid fairly, and I’ll spend more to do that.
And what is our responsibility? Our responsibility absolutely is to improve the crystal healing Market.
But ultimately, that’s small potatoes compared to where real Mining and extraction damage is being done at the environmental and the social level. So yes, improving the mining of rose quartz improves the mining of amethyst and Malachite, and barite and celestite. But let’s improve the big industrial complexes that are exploiting human labor to produce the stuff we need in our devices and the stuff we need in our automobiles and stuff we need for weapons. Do we need to keep mining uranium and stuff? In my cards, I think it is important to do the best I can with my crystals that I use for my healing practice, but I also think it’s in my cards to shine a light on how it’s just a small piece of the puzzle.
Ashley: Thank you so much for bringing this up because I think this is something that most people don’t even realize or recognize. 98% of what we probably have in the Crystal Market is, as you said, a byproduct. Because frankly again, operating within capitalism that stuff isn’t where the money is. It’s in the ore; it’s in those raw materials that go into everything else.
One thing that you said that is so important to recognize, and I really want it to sink in for people, is how small the crystal and gem market is out of the whole mining industry.
So we have all those ores and raw materials going into things like you said. Electronics, devices, cosmetics. We talked about it quite a bit. You mentioned the mining of mica. And really, if you want a deep dive into this stuff, go look that up because you will likely learn a lot. These are all parts of one huge Global complex. It is so deeply intertwined. Because it is all capitalist-driven, often those minerals were just sitting in a heap, they were too difficult to work with, but we as humans have decided that they have value. There is value in them. So now it’s part of this whole big machine that is the mining industry.
I think it’s so interesting to look at our responsibility.
Yes, through that lens of what we are contributing to Crystal healing and to this very small Niche, but in a much bigger way through a much wider lens and seeing all the ways that this impacts our world.
So Nicholas, thank you so much for breaking that down because that is something that even when I was into crystals when I was a kid and a teenager, I knew about mining and that there is a complex relationship there. But in my mind, still for many years, as a kid, I thought these things were separate. I thought you mine for ore, and you do these things, and sometimes those things also happen to be crystals. Silver and copper, and things like that. But very much, these two are intertwined, and they can’t be separated from one another.
Hopefully, the more of us that are examining this, that are asking questions that are putting pressure where we need to put pressure in this secondary mineral Market.
My Hope Is that somehow that Ripple will extend into the greater practice of Mining and how it’s done in our world. I don’t know if that will happen, and I don’t know when that will happen, but I like to think that at some point, It’s possible.
This is such an old industry, and largely, it’s been done the same way for a very long time.
There might be new advances in technology. There might be new pockets and new uses for some of these materials. But largely, the industry as a whole, I don’t think has changed much in the thousands of years that we’ve been extracting minerals from the earth.
I do like what you said how it’s almost like we give these minerals purpose. And if there is going to be the secondary market of these minerals that have been extracted as byproducts. If we can work with them for our own growth and work with them for healing of ourselves and of others, and really examine how this fits into part of our spiritual practice, part of our way of tapping it and connecting with the Earth. Is it a good thing? A bad thing? Is it just something that exists? We have to take it for what it is. There are pros and cons. There are pieces that are benefiting the Earth and pieces that are not. What do you feel ultimately?
Let me say it this way: there are people watching and listening right now that are wondering, what is the answer? So should I be working with Crystals?
Should I not be working with crystals? What is the right answer? And let me pose that to you because… is there a right answer?
Nicholas: I said earlier, the only way I can know absolutely that the process is 100% ethical and sound is if I do it myself. Alternatively, if I know without a shadow of a doubt that someone is transparent in the supply chain and the supply chain is very short. So the Counterpoint to add to this little addendum that I think is necessary is nobody should feel shame for not knowing better. Nobody should feel guilt for being an unconscious consumer because we are mostly unconscious consumers. That’s what our system is predicated upon. The less you know, the more you sometimes consume. The more you know, the more you consume.
The first piece is to, I think, just be aware and share that awareness.
That awareness sharing can come maybe in the form of asking questions. I get these from time to time. Anyone who follows me closely enough probably knows I helped manage an amethyst stall here in Central Florida.
More frequently these days I get asked about the ethics and the sources, and you know the truth is it’s complicated, like you and I have just discussed. Wherever possible, we will make the decision, okay, well, here’s this, here’s this Moonstone that we know was mined in Virginia, and we have lots of laws in North America, here in the US, that protects Mining and the environment and workers’ rights.
Maybe they’re not great laws, but there are more than you’re going to find in other places. Given a choice between that and maybe some Moonstone that all I know was it was tumbled in China, I’ll choose the other stuff. I know its story; I can trace some of that. So part of it is like asking about provenance. This is something that mineral collectors really care about.
Rocks tell stories geologically. The more we know about the geology of where it came from, in my practice, at least, the more it informs the way I use that stone.
So asking the Providence question can be twofold. Well, is this quartz from Arkansas? Is this quartz from the Sichuan Province of China? Is it quartz from Australia? They’re going to feel different so that it can be kind of thinly veiled as an innocent question that any consumer might want to know. But it starts the wheels turning of, well, do what kind of conditions brought it to us?
Like the average metaphysical shop worker store owner, anyone is going to say ‘I bought it at a trade show’. We buy them in bulk because that’s how it’s sold. But if we as consumers start leaning on our retailers to think about these things, gently, lovingly, is this ethical? Because nobody knows, but if we start with a question of genuine curiosity, then they have a genuine curiosity, and they lean on their suppliers, and we start this chain of people who care about providence.
There are lots of instances in the metaphysical world where provenance is intentionally hidden, either by changing the name or being vague about the origins of the stone.
For example, you’ll find in certain catalogs how ‘this material is found on a remote island’. Or, ‘This can only be found on a distant island, off the coast of Africa’. And the truth is you know that they’re talking about in both of these descriptions, the same island, and that island is Madagascar. You can buy the same Rock from someone who sells Madagascar minerals for, like, a tenth of the price, maybe even less.
That’s part of our ethical consumption too; disclosing provenance helps everybody because if we know something is from a place Laden with conflict, we can decide whether or not we want to consume it.
If we don’t know that, we can’t make that decision. And then the other thing is there are ways we can consume minerals that don’t constantly increase that footprint or those ripples. Buy things from your own backyard. And in a metaphorical sense, I love North American rocks and minerals. Because the history of mining here is so rich and varied. I like the diversity we have in the United States’ mineral species. We have so many different geological environments and processes that produce such unique things.
You go to Franklin, New Jersey, the world’s foremost site of fluorescent minerals, maybe only rivaled by Quebec. Just the sheer amount of weird things that only occurred there and nowhere else is incredible. You move to the Southwest. You’ve got an entirely different kind of minerals. You go to Hidden, Knight North Carolina Align, and you have incredible mineral diversity that doesn’t resemble any of those other places.
Buying things that are historical, that haven’t been mined recently, means we’re not putting new labor into the process, and we’re not really increasing the carbon footprint, with all the emissions from Modern equipment.
Also, it’s got a story to it. I love an old rock that came from someone’s collection. Even if I don’t know the whole story, I get that little, like, yellowed label that goes with it. Someone hand-wrote this label in the 1960s when they dug it out of the earth. And it’s been carried with the stone for 60 years now. How cool is that? So buying old stuff is a way to be relatively ethical, although it doesn’t mean it was ethical back then. Still, we’re not putting additional strain on the environment or on the human factor.
In the digital era, I can’t tell you how many accounts I see and follow and experience on Instagram and other places like little indie, rock wrestlers going out and picking up rocks and then offering them for sale. I can see their environmental impact. It was a hammer and a pickaxe. That was the fancy equipment they used. Those are other ways of looking for the small and independent stuff.
Look for small batches of rocks and minerals.
Of course, there are also artisanal miners in the conventional jury trade that are a really increasing trend right now. There are some really great people who spotlight artisanal miners and pay artisanal miners, who are nearly always indigenous people, fair liveable wages for what they’re getting. Aqua praise is a great example. For the most part, the entire production is as ethical as any mining production can be. The lapidary artist in that area are getting paid what they’re worth, and Yanni, the man who has brought this to Market, has worked really hard against the big mining complex to make this available in a way that supports people.
So we do the best we can with the tools we’ve got. And the only way we get better tools is by asking questions. It comes right back down to asking questions.
Ashley: I love what you said about asking specifically about the provenance of minerals. I have very much found that working with amethyst from India is different from an amethyst from Brazil, which is different from amethyst from Uruguay, and is different from amethyst from Madagascar. You’re going to have these differences in energy. But further, there are places that you can do research online.
The United States Government keeps a website of places or Industries where child labor is used. You can look up mining and look up a specific country.
You can see if child Labour is used in that industry in that country. Let that help inform some of your purchasing decisions. If, for example, that quite frequently, child labor is used in many Madagascar mining operations, you can consciously choose to avoid those minerals.
I do want to touch on something. You’ve been talking a lot about this on Instagram and on TikTok as well, about the very unethical practice of changing mineral names. Not disclosing locations and sometimes even not really disclosing what the material is, right? Just naming it something else.
There are mineral catalogs that frequently do this. It is a point of frustration for many reasons. I think quite frequently this plays into capitalism, right? Control of the market of this one material, popularizing it, under a name, where you can then only get it from the person who owns the trademark or whatever it happens to be.
There are other reasons that people sometimes change the names of minerals, which aren’t great either.
I won’t disclose the mineral because I would give it away, but a very amazing family works with a particular Village in Asia. Doing some mining for a specific material, and I know the family that runs this operation that brings these minerals to the Market. I know about the provenance of these minerals.
Still, they go by a different name somewhere else. They’re then sold for ten times what they’re sold for under their real mineral name. It’s so frustrating to me. I think of how much more money could have gone in the pockets of the people who are mining those minerals. The people who are going through the process of bringing those minerals to Market.
I felt like maybe this was kind of dying down a little bit. I felt like there was this big spike, maybe six or seven years ago with these mineral names, and then it did kind of seem to mellow for a bit. Still, I think it’s starting back up again. You’ve been talking a lot about this and just trying to educate people on doing a little bit of research first before if something seems really hyped up.
What are some of the things people should look for to try and educate themselves on this unethical practice of renaming minerals. How can we find if a mineral goes by another name?
Nicholas: A really good resource for this is mindat.org. This is a bunch of old-school scientists who curate this thing. It’s a really great resource anytime you’re not sure if you’ve got the name of mineral correct. It’ll tell you if what you’re typing in is a trade name or a rival of another species or lots of other things. The scientists who run it can be pretty savage about these made up metaphysical names actually.
I have a very dear friend who has been going toe-to-toe with these people for many years, genuinely wanting to educate herself. She’s totally rude in the metaphysical world, and she will ask these old-school scientists, Well, okay, so here’s its trade name. I know it’s not this, here are some pictures, what can you tell me? And she can take it like nobody’s business, and I admire her willingness to do that. She can say to herself okay, this is not personal. This is not a personal attack. They’re sick of the practice of the way, the same way I am, but we come at it from two different angles, let’s meet in the middle.
Ashley: I love when people make those connections and can meet halfway. And having some of the old-school science geologist types be like, alright, I don’t really get you. You crystal healing people with your woo woo over there, but I appreciate you coming at this from an ‘I know this isn’t’ angle.
Nicholas: Totally. It’s like my favorite thing in the world. I can woo with the best of the woo. But I love just sitting down and talking to mineral people who have no interest in the woo.
The funny thing is the longer I do this, the more mystically inclined science people are to me.
They have such a profound awareness of and respect for the unknown. At the end of the day, I think all spiritual practice leads us to the precipice of mystery. It invites us to take that plunge. The tools we use and the language we frame it in are going to be different. But it is that willingness to dive into the heart of mystery that fuels our practice. And that is exactly what the scientific method is.
I have another very dear friend who is a proper geologist and a witch. She’s tackling these same kinds of topics in her own way. She’s amazing. Hearing her talk about science and such, she recognizes that scientists themselves are a pretty superstitious bunch. That there’s a very weird and wonderful kind of magic to the scientific method and equipment and everything else. Also, I don’t think you can pursue any field, and any field at all, doesn’t have to be science-related, without the passion and wonder that mystery evokes. Those are the same things that drive authenticity.
A spiritual practice that is willing to be vulnerable and surrender is marvelous. But the deal is, you can’t surrender to the unknown until you are up with what’s known.
In this sort of renaming and reclassifying and rebranding of old rocks it is very easy to get lost. I think some of the best spiritual experiences I’ve ever had are with humble rocks, really ordinary things. I always have flint nearby. Here’s some that I took from God knows where. Probably a gravel parking lot in Glastonbury. But there’s this very ancient lineage of picking up a stone because it’s Charming to us and for no other reason than that personal connection. If we can recognize that our metaphysical lights are common humble stones, then we can steep ourselves in that mystery.
Also, we can usually buy stones under their common humble names for much less.
And that’s the part of this process that gets me by intentionally hiding provenance. That’s a conscious decision someone has made, and to get that far and stop is to pull the wool over someone’s eyes.
The internet broke me. One day when I saw a polished sphere of the most ubiquitous metamorphic rock in existence being sold for thousands of dollars, something snapped. This has always bothered me. But if this 4-inch sphere is worth this much money, how much is a countertop worth? made out of the same material. You could go and per square yard, pay like a hundred and fifty, maybe $300 for really high-end material. The same stuff. Maybe not from the same place, but it’s the same stuff.
Visit your local shopping mall. What are those tiles made out of it? You’re walking all over it. I once had a bank when I lived in a small town in Central Florida. The front of it was made out of Larvikite.
Ashley: We have a building in Madison, the front is made of Larvikite, and it’s so beautiful.
Common rocks. Igneous rock. It’s not groundbreaking stuff. But it can be.
As metaphysical people, we appreciate a different kind of value in it, but imagine now that building material, that architectural material, has an inherent value, and that’s reflected by the trade and fluctuations and availability and demand.
Now, what if someone else comes along and says, I really like this stuff, but it’s not moving as Larvikite. I’m going to name it galactic blue spaceship height, and instead of $150 for a slab of it, that’s 3 feet by 3 feet, it’s $150 for a piece the size of my fist.
It’s the same Stone. It offers the same benefits. It’s probably even dug out by the same human beings at the same time. But the artificial inflation of price is really detrimental, and the ripples that cause it are problematic.
Not every trade name is bad. Angelite is a really great example. If you go by Blue Compact and hydrate, rather than Angelite, it’s actually cheaper than the beautiful crystalline specimens of Angelite. You get from other parts of the world. Value in a trade name or not always inherently linked, but it’s the practice around it.
Ashley: Also, there’s a difference, right?
I wanted to distinguish between a trade name and a trademarked name.
Nicholas: Yes. Absolutely.
Ashley: Which is a big part of this issue.
Nicholas: A colleague of mine was one down the rabbit hole with a lot of these trademarked names. She actually wrote a little booklet that you can find on Amazon.
Nicholas: Old rocks new names by Kristi Hugs. She looked at databases with the U.S. trademark database, Canadian intellectual property office, database, and similar databases, and in the UK and Australia. She found that the trademark was being used in more cases than not for many of these trademarked names. The symbol was being used without the paperwork having been filed. They’re not even legally trademarked in some cases, which is a whole another work
Ashley: About 10 years ago, I did the same thing for one specific mineral that I was very curious about. I actually found the trademark filings with the trademark office, but it was marked as a dead trademark because no one ever followed through on the filing. However, it had been initially registered probably to keep other people from using it at the time that this particular mineral was really blowing up. As I said, this was about 10 years ago.
There was never follow-through on that. But I still see the initial filers of this using the TM. After the name all the time. That’s very interesting too.
One thing that I love that you said was about appreciating the beauty in the common rocks that are around us.
I think so often we get hung up on these things that, let’s face it, are exquisite, beautiful, right? Stunning, beautiful for thousands of years, humans have been attracted by these amazingly colored things that the Earth makes. They still amaze me. Still, there’s also Beauty and also healing and also a connection to be found in the stones around us.
How many of us can connect or think back to our first experience of maybe being a child and going for a walk and being enamored with a rock and maybe it was a piece of parking lot gravel. Maybe it was a landscaping rock. Maybe it was a smooth stone that you found in a stream. But I think all of us who love rocks now in our adulthood have at least one vivid experience like that, where we were just as taken with something we found maybe literally in our own backyard.
Nicholas: We put things on pedestals that we view as exotic and ‘other’, and we take for granted our everyday scenery. If we can look at the world through the Beginner’s mind, the eyes of a child with the heart of Innocence, what part of our existence isn’t magical?
We’re talking to each other on screens with signals that float through the air and permeate all these things between us on a rock, floating in space orbiting, a giant ball of gas in the sky.
Seriously, life is magical; I don’t need a mysteryite to enhance the mystery. I can pick up an ordinary Rock and have that experience. It’s so easy to exoticize, and that’s rooted in white supremacy. It’s rooted in the sort of racial and social injustice that we see in the world.
But what about where you are right now? I guarantee there is Rock underneath just about everyone’s feet. If you’re listening from the space station, I’m really sorry. Next time bring rocks with you so you can be part of this. But seriously, no part of our existence can be divorced from the geosphere, from the part of the earth that is geological in nature. And so many of our everyday resources are derived from it. And when we recognize the profundity of that, everything is crystalline.
We’re at least a couple of degrees of separation removed from all things crystalline.
That to me opens new doors to my everyday practice. It’s the picking up of the humble Stone and going, all right, what is your lesson for me? What can we do together? What do you need from me? Not always, what can I get from this, but what can I give in this situation?
Those are the kinds of questions that also make our practice more compassionate. That make us more willing to have the empathy and the sensitivity to make better buying decisions. Sometimes the best buying decision is like, I see crystals in a storm. I have to rescue you, I really have to. Other days, it’s going, If I buy this thing in this consumer environment, It’s going to tell capitalism to put more of these things here. Do I know without a doubt what kind of practice it is brought from? I’m not buying this from a big box store or in the mall.
No guilt, shame or blame for anyone else who’s making a different decision to myself.
I control my own. Again, I don’t want to have this conversation, make people feel guilty for owning rocks. Please work with the tools you’ve got. Make new friends along the way. It’s such a complicated conversation. There’s so much depth to this. And you have to have courage, you have to be brave enough to be uncomfortable to do this work. It’s related to so much of the other work being done in the world, and it matters. We all matter. You matter. And your decisions matter, small as they might feel. It does make a difference.
Ashley: Powerful. On so many levels, everything that you’ve said today I think is going to take hours and days and months to kind of ripple through each of us, engaging in this dialogue and listening in, on this conversation and realizing how many layers there are to this work. And realizing that there are our individual actions and there’s our Collective action. There’s the contribution to extraction, to consumerism, capitalism, white supremacy. All of these things are hopefully quite literally being torn down, reconstructed, reimagined. And it does start with each of us.
I so appreciate the open discussion without blame and shame, just an open discussion and an opportunity for reflection and making the best decisions we each can.
So thank you. I always learn so much from our conversations. You are my absolute favorite person to talk to about crystals, quite honestly, because I feel like we always get to go a little bit deeper. We always get to break things down and look at these layers. You have so many great opportunities for learning.
I mentioned a few of your books earlier. I highly recommend all of Nicholas’ books. They’re all on my bookshelf. Seriously, fantastic. If you want more of this kind of an opportunity to think about the mineral Kingdom, then I highly recommend reading Nicholas’s books. But Nicholas, you also teach some great classes. I know you just recently did a class about the Beryls, particularly with a focus on Emerald, which I know is one of your favorites, but you have another class coming up for it. I believe it’s June 10th, right?
I have a class called gems of abundance. It’s all about crystals for wealth, success, and sovereignty.
And more than just the capitalist definitions of those things. It’s about finding a way to have agency and support and defining success on your terms. That’ll be the evening of June 10th. Recordings will be available for anyone who can’t make it live.
They also have a couple of ongoing monthly things that I do every month. There’s a free Reiki share that I’ll do. My next one will be June 12, and then I have my next installment in the Monolith Series right after. The next one will be Agate, a very Mercurial Stone and very common, very humble. I myself just got some new Agate from Utah that I’m excited to sit down and talk to or listen to as the case is probably going to be.
It’s so much fun getting together in these digital spaces. I’m grateful that one of the blessings of COVID has been a new kind of connection with low overhead. I don’t have to pack up rocks and fly with them. Rocks are heavy. Airlines are the worst. We’ve also lowered our carbon footprint. There we go. See, ethical because I can do this from the comfort of my home. I thank you for the opportunity to talk about that, as always. Thank you for having me here.
Ashley: Tell us, Nicholas,
Where can people go to learn more about that class or register for any of your upcoming events?
Nicholas: Probably the most reliable place is to visit me on social media. There will be a link in my profile link tree that will take you to all of those things individually. I endeavor to have individual events listed on Facebook as well. If you’re a Facebooker, you can do that. I do also have a website that is in need of a serious overhaul, but it’s www.luminouspearl.com. If you don’t see what you’re looking for there, you can just shoot me a message via the contact form, and I’ll send anyone who wants individual links that I’ll make sure are up and about for everyone.
Again, Nicholas, thank you so much for the conversation for the companionship. It was great chatting with you today.
Nicholas: Thank you.
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